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March 2020 5-day Birthday Trip

I am trying to plan a birthday trip to Scotland for myself and my husband, who is a big Islay scotch fan.  We are restricted for travel dates and length of stay, so we're currently looking at arriving in Edinburgh on a Wednesday afternoon in March 2020, travelling to Islay for a few days, then returning to Edinburgh before flying back home to the US the following Monday.

So far, my itinerary is something like this:
  • Weds arrive in Edinburgh, take public transport to Glasgow.
  • Stay Weds night in Glasgow (this is most likely what we'll be doing since our flight into Scotland won't land in time to make the 1710 Loganair flight).
  • Take 0800 Loganair flight to Islay.  Somehow (taxi?) get to Port Ellen from the airport.
  • Stay in Port Ellen Thursday and Friday nights, hitting Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg for tours.
  • Saturday morning travel back to Glasgow, most likely via ferry to Kennacraig and then bus to Glasgow.
  • Public transport from Glasgow back to Edinburgh.
  • Spend rest of Saturday and Sunday in Edinburgh, leave for home on Monday.

It seems like a bit of a whirlwind for us, and highly dependent on public transport (we weren't planning on renting a car, and most likely wouldn't on our first leg to Islay since the flight seems faster).  I'm from the suburbs in the States, and I rarely use public transport so I'm a bit stressed out about doing so in a new country.  How reliable is it?  How easy are the buses and trains to navigate?  Also, the flight to Islay in March - what are the chances that our flight will be canceled?  We've never traveled by ferry so we'd really like to do that if possible.  But, if the flight back to Glasgow makes more sense then we can save a ferry trip for another time.

I'm looking on the ScotRail, CalMac, and Traveline sites, but many of them aren't updated for travel that far in advance, so I can't be sure of timetables and such.  We'd love to take a train at some point (we've never been on one), but I seem to only see bus travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh on the Traveline site - am I picking the wrong start/stop locations?  I'd really appreciate some guidance on how and when to get tickets, which tickets or passes (if any) to buy, and such.

I know it's not a long time to spend in a country with so many places to see and things to do, but I'm considering this trip like an overseas amuse-bouche.  I am sure we'll leave wanting more.



  • VisitScotlandAmandaVisitScotlandAmanda Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    Hello @UnsafePrune :)

    This will be quite a whirlwind trip for you! In March our daylight hours are roughly 7am-5.30pm so you should factor this in also. 

    For booking trains you should usually look at about 8-12 weeks in advance. Traveline is a great site to use and yes you can get between Edinburgh and Glasgow on the train. It's usually around 50 mins to 1 hour between Edinburgh Waverley station and Glasgow Queen St or Central. There are also plenty of buses per day if you prefer this option. I understand your concerns about getting used to public transport, as I'm originally from a tiny town in New Zealand but I can assure you I got used to the transport systems here easily and I'm sure you'll be fine as well. People will also be happy to help you if you have queries!

    Kiwi gal, relocated to Scotland. 
  • UnsafePruneUnsafePrune Member
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